WSSNWild Salmon & Steelhead News is published monthly by the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition. Read on to learn about the Columbia-Snake River Basin’s endangered wild salmon and steelhead, the many benefits they deliver to people and ecosystems, and the extinction crisis they face today. Find out how SOS is helping lead efforts to restore health, connectivity, and resilience to the rivers and streams salmon depend upon in the Columbia-Snake Basin and how you can get involved to help restore healthy, abundant, and fishable populations and sustain more just and prosperous communities. To learn more and/or get involved, contact Carrie Herrman.


TABLE OF CONTENTS:

1. Northwest Tribes call for restoring the Snake River at historic Salmon Orca Summit
2. Conservation & fishing groups call on federal court to provide additional help for salmon and steelhead
3. The Red Road to D.C. Totem Pole Journey kicks off on the lower Snake River
4. SOS’ Hot Water Reports - Challenges for salmon escalate this summer as temperatures soar in the Columbia-Snake Basin
5. Snake River salmon recovery is much more than a 'Columbia Basin issue', coastal leaders tell Murray/Inslee
6. Join us for a Rally for the River! August 7 - Stand up and speak up for protecting NW salmon and their rivers!


1. Northwest Tribes call for restoring the Snake River at historic Salmon Orca Summit

In an historic gathering of more than 15 Indian nations, tribal leaders from around the Northwest called for immediate action to save endangered orcas and the salmon they depend on.

From the Rocky Mountains of Idaho to the Pacific Coast and everywhere in between, tribal leaders gathered in early January in a 2-day show of unity in support of a dam-busting proposal by Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho. His Columbia Basin Initiative would take down the four dams on the lower Snake River and replace their benefits, with billions of dollars of investment in a new future for the Pacific Northwest communities and infrastructure.

Rep. Simpson was present for both days of the summit. He said that the time is now to uphold our nation’s responsibilities to Native American Tribes that are unable to enjoy a way of life guaranteed forever when they signed treaties with the United States more than 150 years ago. The ability to harvest salmon has always been at the heart of the cultures their ancestors sought to preserve.

Neither Snake River sockeye, nor any of the other 12 runs of salmon and steelhead since listed for protection under the ESA in the Columbia and Snake rivers, have recovered despite more than $17 billion spent to save them. Southern resident orcas, which depend on chinook from the Columbia and other basins across the Northwest, also continue to decline. There are only 75 whales left today.

The Summit’s first day was dominated by powerful testimony from many of the assembled tribal leaders about the importance of salmon to their communities. Many expressed strong support and appreciation for Congressman Simpson’s bold leadership to craft a comprehensive solution to restore the lower Snake River, invest in salmon recovery region-wide and in communities that would be affected by decommissioning and removing dams.

Congressman Simpson spoke in the afternoon, reaffirming his commitment to salmon recovery and community investments. Pausing on a number of occasions as emotions overwhelmed him, he heralded the Tribes’ leadership and its importance for making a break from a failed and costly status quo.

Leaders of the Umatilla Tribe’s Youth Leadership Council delivered inspiring remarks and calls to action on day two, and drew a standing ovation from the audience. You can learn more about their petition to President Biden – calling for substantial funding and urgent policies to recover salmon and remove the lower Snake River dams.

Several other policymakers delivered recorded remarks (Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Congressman Blumenauer (OR)). Governor Inslee also zoomed in to share his thoughts for about 15 minutes. Several policymakers sent staff to the Summit, including Senators Patty Murray (WA) and Ron Wyden (OR), and Governor Inslee (WA)

Save Our wild Salmon and several member organizations organized a vigil of solidarity early on the morning of Day 1 – with banners and large inflatable puppets of endangered Snake River salmon and Southern Resident orcas. Afterward, we were invited in to observe the Summit and meet and talk with Summit attendees. It was a powerful and moving two days.

Here are several links to regional press coverage about the Summit:


2. Conservation & fishing groups call on federal court to provide additional help for salmon and steelhead

gavelRecord-shattering heat in the Pacific Northwest has added a new level of urgency for salmon and fishing advocates who returned to court this month to ask for more 'spill' and other measures at federal dams on the lower Snake and Columbia Rivers to aid the migration and survival of critically endangered salmon and steelhead.

Earthjustice, on behalf of 14 fishing and conservation groups (SOS member organizations), has requested that more water be released starting in spring 2022 to help endangered fish populations navigate eight federal dams and reservoirs in the lower Columbia and lower Snake rivers. Spill helps flush juvenile fish more quickly and safely along their perilous river/reservoir migration to reach the Pacific Ocean. Plaintiff groups are also seeking lowered reservoir levels – called “drawdown” – to help speed migrating fish through reservoirs that are routinely too hot in the summer months (See Hot Water Report). These proposed actions are effectively emergency stop-gap measures. While they are helpful and buy the fish additional time, by themselves, these actions are insufficient to stop the current trend toward extinction.

The State of Oregon also filed a similar motion with the Court for injunctive relief and the Nez Perce Tribe is supporting these motions.

Here are a few of statements from lawyers and plaintiffs:

“Right now we’re back in court asking for another stop-gap measure to slow the trend toward extinction of these fish,” said Todd True, Earthjustice attorney. “The Endangered Species Act is a critical safety net for these fish. But what we need to stop this extinction crisis in our backyards is leadership from the Biden administration, our senators, and members of Congress to quickly build on the work of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the Nez Perce Tribe, and efforts already underway by Idaho Rep. Simpson, Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.”

“Energy system impacts from granting this injunctive relief can be addressed, in part, with new hybrid renewable energy resources like wind and solar coupled with storage, flexible demand and energy efficiency,” said Nancy Hirsh, executive director of the NW Energy Coalition.

“Investing in restoring salmon in the Columbia Basin, once the largest salmon-producing river system in the world, means investing in the return of a multi-billion dollar ocean fishery that once supported tens of thousands of jobs,” said Glen Spain, NW Regional Director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), the west coast’s largest trade association of commercial fishing families.

Read the full press release issued on July 16 about this request for injunctive relief, with additional background, quotes, and links to further information.


3. The Red Road to D.C. Totem Pole Journey kicks on the lower Snake River

The #RedRoadtoDC a Totem Pole Journey kicked off this month with an event in traditional Nimiipuu territory in Clarkston, WA. This was the totem pole's first stop on its travels this month from Washington state to Washington D.C. The project is highlighting the importance of protecting sacred lands and waters across the country.

The salmon, central to the Nez Perce Tribe and Nimiipuu culture, face an extinction crisis today due to aging dams and warming reservoir waters. More than 200 people, including SOSO staff and supporters, joined Tribal members and Nez Perce leaders and leaders as they called for the removal of the Snake River dams at this moving event organized by Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment.

Right now, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to restore wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia Basin, once home to the greatest salmon rivers in the world. We can do this by removing four outdated and costly dams on the lower Snake River. For too long these dams have pushed salmon and steelhead populationstoward extinction and impeded the rights of Nez Perce and other Northwest First Peoples to exercise their traditional rights to fish. The federal government promised the Nez Perce People the right to hunt and fish in their usual and accustomed places as part of the 1855 Treaty. Restoring this river and its endangered salmon populations presents one important step toward helping right this historic wrong.

Sign the petition to restore the salmon and remove the Snake River dams

The next stop for the House of Tears Carvers and the Red Road team is Bears Ears National Monument. Learn more about the totem pole journey and the stops along the way at their website and watch this video from last week’s event on the lower Snake River!


4. SOS' Hot Water Report - Challenges for salmon escalate this summer as temperatures soar temperatures in the Columbia-Snake Basin

2020.HOT WATERSOS has published its first five Hot Water Reports this summer. This annual summer series by SOS highlights the harmful/deadly conditions in the lower Snake and Columbia rivers for salmon and steelhead caused hot water temperatures created mainly by the reservoirs created by the federal dams and now made worse by the changing climate.

This June and July, water temperatures have far exceeded the 68 degree 'harm threshold' for salmon and steelhead in the lower Snake and lower Columbia Rivers. On June 27th for example, the Little Goose reservoir on the lower Snake River had a high water temperature of 73.04°F and on July 18th, Ice Harbor’s reservoir (also on the lower Snake) registered at 73.22°F. The longer and higher temperatures rise above 68°F, the greater the harm to coldwater species like salmon and steelhead, including disruption in their migration, increased metabolism, increased susceptibility to disease, reduced fecundity or reproductive potential (by reducing egg viability), and in the worst case - death. The last time the Northwest experienced comparable temperatures was in 2015 - and hundreds of thousands of returning adult salmon were killed by hot reservoir waters before they were able to reach their spawning grounds.

Read our reports for an update on real-time water temperatures in the lower Snake and Columbia River reservoirs via graphs and analyses and a report on the highest weekly water temperature at the forebay/reservoir of each dam during this summer.

Each issue of the Hot Water Report also highlights related issues and explores urgently needed solutions and the opportunities they present to improve the Northwest's culture, economy, and environment. You can learn more, for example, about the Columbia Riverkeeper's 2017 Report on how restoring the lower Snake River will reduce its water temperatures and deliver critical survival benefits to endangered salmon and steelhead. You can also read the Nez Perce Tribe’s 2021 “Snake Basin Chinook and Steelhead Quasi-Extinction Threshold” Analysis, and more.

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to read and share the Hot Water Reports to your networks!


5. Snake River salmon recovery is much more than a 'Columbia Basin issue', coastal leaders tell Murray/Inslee

Leaders of two dozen organizations around Washington’s coast recently signed a letter to Sen. Patty Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee calling attention to the strong coastal stake regarding the fate of Snake River salmon and the lower Snake dams. They expressed support for Murray and Inslee’s leadership on the issue, but expressed concern about an overly-narrow focus on “…stakeholders and communities in the Columbia River Basin”.

The letter cited grave harm to commercial and recreational fishermen, coastal Tribes, and Southern Resident orcas from steep declines in salmon numbers and told Murray and Inslee that “…it is imperative that in solutions-oriented conversations, coastal communities and Tribes be at the table and that their needs and interests be adequately addressed.”

Groups represented on the letter ranged from Tacoma to the San Juan Islands, from Port Townsend to Aberdeen. The letter closed with a commitment to “…to actively support the urgent work of identifying and implementing solutions that work for farmers and fishermen, for Tribes and utilities, and for coastal and Columbia Basin communities.”

Read the letter here!


6. Join us for a Rally for the River! August 7 - Stand up and speak up for protecting NW salmon and their rivers!

Already endangered salmon in the Snake River and across the Northwest are in especially hot water this summer as high temperatures unfold across the region. In the “new normal” of the climate crisis, salmon are being pushed closer than ever to the brink of extinction.

Take action now—gather together to call on our region’s lawmakers that we’re serious about recovering salmon and restoring healthy rivers - and it’s time for them to get serious, too. Join us on the water to Rally for the River at events in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho on Saturday, August 7.

SOS is teaming up with many other salmon, orca and river advocacy organizations to host rallies in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho on August 7. Help us call for a comprehensive solution for salmon recovery that removes the lower Snake River dams and invests in Northwest communities and infrastructure.

Check out the Rally for the River website to find your event.

Contact carrie@wildsalmon.org, for information on a rally near you!

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